Friday, June 28, 2013

Douceur de France (Marietta, GA)

277 South Marietta Parkway SW, Marietta, GA 30064, T: 770-425-5050
1173 Alpharetta St., Roswell, GA 30075, T: 770-650-1173

Douceurde France is a posh French restaurant that specializes in sandwiches, crepes, salads, breads, and pastries. They have two locations, both in rich suburbs of Atlanta. I visit the Marietta location, where I hear a couple of people that work there speak French: a good sign!

My main interest is not lunch, however. I am there for some good bread and some original French pastries. The selection is impressive and the presentation makes me feel like I am in a truly French place.

I get one Almond Croissant ($2.50), which is quite chunky, very crispy, and simply delishes (not too sweet, not too nutty). The Pain au Chocolat ($2.05) is a bit chewy, and has an odd kind of salty taste to the dough, but the chocolate is very tasty and not overdone. Finally, the Beignet ($0.75) is small, but absolutely delicious. So fresh, flaky, sugary, and still not too sweet.

VERDICT: 93/100
Douceur de France serves some of the best French pastries in the United States. Moreover, unlike many of its competitors, they are quite affordable.

Neretva Market (Marietta, GA)

2359 Windy Hill Rd SE, Suite 200, Marietta, GA 30067, T: 770-226-0300

Neretva is a small grill/market in a strip mall just off the I-75. It has a small terrace outside, which features the usual collection of dodgy Balkan men smoking and talking, and a couple of tables inside. It is run by an adorable small old Bosnian man, bit hunched over, who tells me that I shouldn't take the "Mix for Two" ("too much food for you") and instead makes a mix especially for me.

This ‘Mix for One’ ($8.47) includes one pljeskavica (kind of hamburger), 2 mild sausages, and four cevapi (or ‘meat fingers’) in a big piece of warm Bosnian bread. The meats are perfectly cured and grilled and are delicious in the fresh bread and with some ajvar (red bell pepper spread). The side salad is simple, but quite large and very fresh.

VERDICT: 89/100
Neretva offers some of the best Bosnian food in the US. I wish they were closer to Athens.

Ike & Jane Café & Bakery (Athens, GA)

1307 Prince Ave, Athens. GA 30606, T: 706-850-1580

Ike & Jane’s is a small bakery that opened not so long ago in the Normaltown area of Athens. It has some seating and does breakfast and lunch. Most people come in for the many sweets, in particular donuts, pound cakes and muffins.

I have the Breakfast Bagel ($3.50): bacon and egg on everything bagel. They slice the bagel, butter and bake the insides, which adds crisp to the already crispy bacon. Delish! M has a bagel with egg, bacon, jalapeño and cheese ($4.50) Also delish! To top it all off, we have the Elvis Donut ($1.50): soft sweet dough smothered with peanut butter, slices of banana, pieces of crisp bacon, and peanuts. Although I am not a big fan of PB, this donut was good! All their pastries are really fresh and tasty – my favorite is the vanilla-frosted donut with pistachios.

VERDICT: 92/100
Ike & Jane doesn't do much, but what it does, it does very well. The serve great breakfast bagels, donuts, and other sweets.

Amici Café (Athens, GA)

233 E Clayton Street, Athens, GA 30601, T: 706-353-0000

Amici Café is a local chain with restaurants in Athens, Covington, Madison, Milledgeville and Monroe. It bills itself as an “Italian Café” and serves Italian food (pizzas and pastas) as well as American sports bar staples (each location has their own menu, but they serve mostly the same fare). The downtown location is very popular with undergraduates and packed on “Wings Night.”

We start with a House Salad ($7.59), which is uneventful but very fresh. We then move on to the main claim to fame of Amici’s, the Wings, which are pretty chunky and crispy. We get 12 Wings ($9.99) and have them divided between two sauces (XXX and Jalapeno Honey). They are well coated in sauce, but there is enough to dip. The XXX is really spicy (particularly when you double dip them). We also get a Basket of Fries ($3.99), which are prefab, but thick and crispy with a light salty dusting. Very nice!

VERDICT: 86/100
Amici’s is much more a place for American than Italian fare. The pastas are poor, the pizzas ok, but the wings are great.

Skogie’s on Baxter (Athens, GA)

525 Baxter Street, Athens, GA 30605, T: 706-850-7447

 Skogie’s on Baxter is the Athens location of a restaurant that has existed at Lake Lanier for six years. They do breakfast and brunch, but are mostly known for their sandwiches, that is (New Orleans-style) po-boys. All come with your choice of "protein" (shrimp, fish, chicken) and side (the favorite are the sweet potato chips). You can also have everything as a basket (i.e. without bread).

This time I get the fish basket with waffle fries and tartar sauce ($8.00). The fish comes in small nuggets, lightly battered and quite crisp. It tastes good, but not special - in part because the (homemade?) tartar sauce is unremarkable. The waffle fries are small and seemingly homemade, but slightly undercooked. At another occasion I had the fish Poboy, which was quite ok, but more fishy than I like.

VERDICT: 80/100
Skogie’s offers decent Poboy-type sandwiches, but nothing like the original New Orleans ones.

Dirty Birds (Athens, GA)

312 E Washington Street, Athens, GA 30601, T: 706-546-7050

Dirty Birds is one of the newer additions to downtown Athens. It thought that it was a chain of restaurants, but it seems to be an Athens original. It holds the middle between a sports bar and a brew pub. It has a basic sports bar food menu and a remarkably rich beer menu. Dirty Birds is popular among undergrads, while (I assume believed to be attractive) undergrad girls, with attention spans of maximum 20 seconds, waitress there. 

We get Six Bangkawk Wings ($6.00) and Six Diablo Wings ($6.00). The wings are big, but dry. As the waitress didn't write anything down, and had an attention span of 20 seconds, the Diablo came out as Buffalo. We decided not to have it changed, however, as all sauces taste roughly the same: bland and uninspiring.

We also both got some Sliders ($9): I took the BBQ Western, i.e. small burgers with BBQ sauce and a fried onion ring. I added jalapeños, which were actually fresh and grilled. The patties were of fairly mediocre quality and a bit dry.

VERDICT: 70/100
Yet another sports bar in town that combines a mediocre atmosphere with mediocre food. However, Dirty Birds ads one extra to this: incompetent waitresses!

Harry’s Pig Shop (Athens, GA)

2425 Jefferson Road, Athens, GA 30607, T: 706-612-9219

Although Georgia is one of those Southern states without much of a BBQ tradition, Athens is full of BBQ places, which (like all other restaurants in the college town), come and go quickly. Harry’s Pig Shop is situated in Homewood Village Shopping Center, a strip all on the outskirts of the town. Its extensive menu includes all classic BBQ items, but also many items that are more fitting for a sports bar.

On this occasion we get six Smoked Wings ($8.99), which are huge and crispy outside, while quite juicy inside. They only come with one sauce, which is quite sweet. We also get the Pork Sliders ($6.99): three small Hawaiian roles filled with pulled pork and slaw. They are quite tasty, but unfortunately the BBQ sauces do not add much taste. The last major item was the McDowell ($6.99), a relatively small burger that is topped with their special potato salad and pickles. I know what you are thinking… I thought the same… but you are WRONG! The McDowell is one of the best burgers I had. Such a great taste! Another great item is their Sausage Philly ($5.99) and, if available, their hearty and meaty Brisket Chili. The sides are average, including the fries, with the exception of the delicious Marinated Beats ($1.99).

VERDICT: 87/100
Harry’s Pig Shop is a bit of an odd BBQ place. I really enjoy their food, but mostly the non-BBQ items. By far the best dishes are the McDowell burger and the Sausage Philly!

Gateway Cafe North (Syracuse, NY)

North Terminal, Hancock International Airport, Syracuse, NY

Hancock International Airport is a pretty standard regional airport: depressing too look at, depressing to eat at. The Gateway Café North is one of the few eating options and is a combination of cafe (sandwiches & pastries), snackbar (burgers and hot dogs) and BBQ.


I get the Frank & Coney (6.49) with Chili and Onions (+0,99). First off, the chili is on the German Brat, not the Coney, as I had asked. The onions are nowhere to be seen. Impressive, given that I was the only customer in at least 3 minutes. The Brat is tiny and comes on a folded slice of white bread. The chili is watery. The Coney is now reduced to a pale Frank on a folded slice of white bread. Both taste ok.

VERDICT: 63/100
It definitely doesn't invite you to come hungry or early to the airport.

Burgers BBQ & Brews (Atlanta, GA)

6000 North Terminal Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30337 (@ Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Terminal C) 

Burgers BBQ & Brews is a fairly typical airport-sports bar with a relative large bar and some high tables and seats. The staff is not overly friendly, but they work quick, which is all you need at an airport.

I get Chicken Wing ($6.19) with Kick'n BBQ sauce. The Wings are quite chunky and crispy on the outside, but bit dry and lukewarm inside (the thick coating of cold sauce doesn't help). The Fries ($2.99) are prefab wrinkle-cut and undercooked.

VERDICT: 73/100
Burgers BBQ & Brews provides quite decent airport sports bar fare. It is affordable, but not very well prepared.

The Sultan (Athens, GA)

1074 Baxter Street, Athens, GA 30606, T: 706-850-7725

The Sultan opened earlier this year at a location that has seen many restaurants either move or go bust. It is a fairly sober Mediterranean restaurant with a large (if somewhat noisy) outdoor patio. The menu features the usual suspects: humus, salads, kebabs and shawarma.

We had the spicy humus, which was a creamy humus with a spicy paste on top of it. Great for dipping the tips of fresh Lebanese bread. The Fatoush was disappointing: tasteless dressing and chewy pita chips. The Mezze for two was ok: the falafel was too dry, as was the beef kabob, but the chicken kabob was excellent, well seasoned and juicy. Finally, the chicken Shawarma was quite decent. Unfortunately, their best dishes, shawarma and gyros sandwiches, are only available for lunch.

VERDICT: 80/100
The Sultan serves decent Middle Eastern food with a couple really tasty dishes (humus, chicken kabob).

Yo Dawgs Yogurt (Athens, GA)

+++  NOW CLOSED !!! +++

723 Baxter Street, Athens, GA 30605, T: 706-546-8477

  YoDawgs is one of many self-service frozen yogurt places in Athens. As all others, it is very popular among students. Unlike the others, however, it is not a (local) chain though. They always have 12 flavors (and four swirls) as well as a huge range of sweet and fruit toppings.

I pay $4.59 for a good cup of four flavors with many chocolate-type toppings. The Original Tart and Blueberry are good, but the strawberry-cheesecake is mostly sweet and the Mango Sorbet is a bit off. I like the range of toppings, even if the fruit is cut too big.

VERDICT: 85/100
Yo Dawgs has good fro-yo, but the choice of flavors and the overall quality have decreased a bit lately.

Wingster (Athens, GA)

521 Baxter Street, Athens, GA 30605, T: 706-583-9611

Wingster is a dive, which mostly caters to students and the local poor(er), who mainly pick up or get delivery. Hardly anyone ever eats in, which might be because of the greasy seats and tables. An older Chinese guy runs the place, but it is mostly uninterested male undergrads that 'deal' with the customers. Overall, Wingster seems to do good business.

I order 10 Wings ($6.95) and get them “Crazy” (4 peppers), which is the second spiciest (after “Insane”). The wings are small, juicy, but not very crispy. The sauce is spicy, but not too hot. They claim the wings are never frozen, but I am a bit skeptical. I also get The Chuck ($5.95), which is the spiciest burger they have. The Chuck comes with “Norris sauce”, Texas BBQ, jalapeños, lettuce and tomato (no blue cheese). It is definitely one of the spicier burgers I ever had (even without the jalapeños, which never appeared, and with me scraping off the cheese, which did come despite me explicitly asking for "no cheese" on my burger). The patties are prefab and unimpressive, but the spiciness overrides everything.

VERDICT: 80/100
Wingster is the closest to a real dive that we have in downtown Athens. It serves very decent wings, but has very poor ‘service’.